Immigration is about history – our history. We are a nation of immigrants. Some American families have been here for many generations, but their ancestors also came to our land from somewhere else. The only exceptions to this are full-blooded Native Americans. Today’s immigrants and refugees merely represent the latest wave in a long history of migration in search of a better life that dates to early European exploration of America.

In a world that traditionally limited rights to the native-born and/or those born into privilege, the United States has welcomed all comers with the promise that hard work and dedication to our democratic values will lead anyone to full rights and citizenship. Each immigrant and refugee wave has enriched and strengthened our nation.

These waves brought Western European, African (by force), Chinese, Eastern European, Central American, South American, and now other Asian and Middle Eastern peoples to our shores. These immigrants and refugees from the ‘Old World’ have built this ‘New World’, this America that we love. Indeed, they are us.

Unfortunately, there have always been some native-born Americans arguing that immigrants and refugees posed a threat to America’s safety and/or culture. From ‘Whites Only’ to ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ to ‘The Chinese Must Go’ to ‘Jews Not Welcome’ to ‘Wops are criminals’ to ‘Stupid Pollocks’ to ‘Throw out the Wetbacks’ to ‘No Brownies’ to ‘Those Towelheads,’ to ‘Sand N—-rs,’ etc., they have employed hateful rhetoric and unjust policies against innocent people.

Fear and ignorance drove these attitudes, as they do today. However, we must not allow our state and nation to be misled by such misguided notions. Phyllis Hatcher believes we must rise above these prejudices. She knows that immigrants are our nation’s strength and always have been. We must remember and celebrate our heritage as a nation where one can become a citizen by choice rather than just by birth or wealth. After all, our great Statue of Liberty proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Our national security is important, and our federal immigration laws are in need of reform. However, our state government must not use this as an excuse to unfairly discriminate against law-abiding people. It is unfortunate that many of the current political representatives in our own state capital are anti-immigrant and anti-refugee.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported just this January that, “At least four bills are in the works in Georgia so far, including one that would block the state from accepting federal refugee resettlement funding. Another would start a new fee for out-of-state wire transfers many immigrants and refugees use to send money to their families abroad.”

We have a choice in how we treat immigrants and refugees within our state. They are people just like us – with the same hopes and needs as we have. They contribute to our economy as workers, investors, and entrepreneurs. Phyllis believes we should welcome them and treat them with the same respect we would for our own immigrant ancestors that came here for a better life. She is committed to working with other senators of goodwill, regardless of party, to do just that.